Gluten and Autoimmunity

Starting this weeks blog with a quote by Dr Ballantyne: “Although the exact role that gluten plays in most autoimmune diseases is elusive, the link between gluten sensitivity is so compelling that many experts in the field believe that gluten sensitivity may contribute to all autoimmune diseases.” Wow. Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about gluten and autoimmune disease.

At a minimum, I suggest that all clients who are dealing with ANY type of autoimmune activation avoid gluten 100%. Even if you never follow AIP (autoimmune protocol which you can read more on HERE). Even though conventional medicine only believes those with celiac need to avoid gluten, there’s plenty of research now showing that many with autoimmune disease can put it into remission simply by eliminating gluten.

Gluten can’t be all bad…can it?

Now, you may be wondering why your grandparents and great grandparents ate wheat just fine, and didn’t deal with autoimmune disease. Well first, the environmental toxins we’re now dealing with on a daily basis weren’t as plentiful. And on top of that, wheat has changed drastically over the years. It’s been hybridized, dwarfed, and genetically modified.

Still not convinced? There have been some interesting studies on healthy mice and gluten consumption. Those that did consume gluten had a massive increase in proinflammatory signals and a huge increase in cytokine production (proteins that regulate inflammation). I’d say that’s reason enough to avoid gluten…probably for everyone, but that’s a different discussion entirely.

Leaky Gut

Unfortunately, with autoimmune disease comes ‘leaky gut.’ I realize that isn’t a medically correct term (intestinal permeability is though), but many understand what it is. No, the gut isn’t physically leaking, but the intestinal barrier has become compromised and now tiny particles that should have remained out, are seeping through. A good analogy is a shag carpet. A good gut lining has shag carpet, and it’s hard for particles to get through, right? Well with leaky gut, your lining has become berber carpet…so everything falls in. And most of those with autoimmunity have leaky gut.

On top of that, gluten causes leaky gut. Dr Fasano has done years of research just studying gluten, and we now know that consuming it triggers the release of a chemical that opens up those intestinal walls (known as zonulin). That’s where you get the berber carpet effect. So pile that onto an already leaky gut and you’re looking at an even worse situation.

Molecular mimicry

Finally, for many, gluten may be a case of molecular mimicry, meaning that it looks like certain tissues. This is a very common one with Hashimoto’s- the body can’t differentiate between gluten and they thyroid, so creates an immune response and attacks both. So long story short, if you’re dealing with any type of autoimmune disease, please cut out the gluten. I know for many of you that seems overwhelming, but in time I promise it gets better.

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